Not a whole lot has changed among the four non-Cincinnati teams in the National League Central from last week, but the middle of the pack has has become a little less clustered together. That’s largely thanks to the Reds’ eight-game losing streak, which is frustrating but understandable after a look at the highlight reel from their last several games:

Here is an advanced graphic representation of the effect of that play on Cincinnati’s placement in the NL Central standings:

mad men

Meanwhile, the mediocre weeks the Cubs and Pirates had were actually enough for them to make incremental gains on a Cardinals team who themselves just went through a pretty tough stretch. Milwaukee continues to idly look at their cell phone while sitting at the dingy airport bar that is the basement of the NL Central, keeping a full beer in front of the chair next to them, just waiting and hoping for the Reds to arrive and give them some company.

St. Louis Cardinals 28-16
Chicago Cubs 24-19 3.5 GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 21-22 6.5 GB
Cincinnati Reds 18-25 9.5 GB
Milwaukee Brewers 16-29 12.5 GB

 

Chicago Cubs

Last week: 3-3 [L-W-W-L-W-L]

An interesting series against the Padres ended up being one of the most entertaining of the week (two of the three games were decided by one run, with the finale being a close 3-0 victory for the Cubs). Chicago’s less-appreciated starters showed up in a big way in San Diego, with Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks turning in strong outings (with the latter pitching a complete game shutout in the third game) and Tsuyoshi Wada making the most of a short 4.2 inning appearances. The three combined for a 0.87 ERA, 0.63 WHIP, and 10.45 K/9 in 20.2 innings pitched.

The offense has been nothing stellar, with Jorge Soler and Miguel Montero scuffling (though they showed some real signs of life on Sunday), while Anthony Rizzo and Dexter Fowler have been only managed eight total hits in their combined 51 at-bats, but seven of those eight have been for extra bases (3 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR). A nine-run outburst in Arizona on Saturday was the first time the Cubs had scored more than four runs all week and only the second time they scored more than three.

Who’s Hot: Kyle Hendricks: 1 GS, 1 SHO, 0 BB, 7 K

Who’s Cold: Miguel Montero: .125/.250/.167, 28.6% K/PA

This week:

  • vs. Washington—5/25 (2:20), 5/26 (7:05), 5/27 (8:05)
  • vs. Kansas City—5/29 (4:05), 5/30 (7:15), 5/31 (2:20)

 

Milwaukee Brewers

Last week: 3-4 [W-W-L-L-W-L-L]

The Brewers’ feast-or-famine offense stayed that way this week, when they averaged just over seven runs per game in their three victories and a mere run-and-a-half in their four losses. Even the injection of Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez hitting their respective strides hasn’t been enough to keep the boat steady—Adam Lind and Aramis Ramirez, despite hitting three solo homers combined, have been non-factors with their combined .143 average and 27.8% strikeout rate.

The Brewers’ young hurlers are certainly getting an education in pitching—Jimmy Nelson occasionally looked very good in his two starts this week (Tuesday against Detroit and Sunday against Atlanta) but struggled with his command (nine walks in 13.2 innings) while Mike Fiers spun 10.2 innings that were decent enough to keep his team in each of the two ballgames (a 3-2 win against Detroit and a 3-2 extra innings loss to Atlanta, both of which were no-decisions for Fiers) but his 1.41 WHIP over the last seven days leaves something to be desired.

Who’s Hot: Ryan Braun: .360/.452/.840, 3 2B, 3 HR

Who’s Cold: Khris Davis: .125/.192/.167, 2.5o K/BB

This week:

  • vs. San Francisco—5/25 (2:10), 5/26 (8:10), 5/27 (1:40)
  • vs. Arizona—5/29 (8:10), 5/30 (4:10), 5/31 (2:10)

 

Pittsburgh Pirates

Last week: 3-2  [L-L-W-W-W]

Like the Reds, Pittsburgh started their week with a two-game interleague series and, like the Reds, they lost both. However, they bounced back for a three-game sweep of the Mets—during which they outscored the Metropolitans 21-4—to recover nicely.

A resurgent Josh Harrison (11-for-26, 3 2B) and Andrew McCutchen (.435/.536/.826) have led the charge offensively and mitigated the doldrums of the other two-thirds of the outfield (Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco), who were a combined 5-for-37 before Sunday’s contest (during which Marte went 1-for-5 with a home run and Polanco went 2-for-2). But the trio of starters at the top of the Pirates rotation put up the most impressive numbers in each of their starts against New York. In Gerrit Cole, A. J. Burnett, and Francisco Liriano’s 21.1 combined innings, they walked three and struck out 22 batters. Wow.

Who’s Hot: A. J. Burnett: 2 GS, 14.0 IP, 0.64 ERA, 10.93 K/9

Who’s Cold: Gregory Polanco: .176/.222/.176, 38.9% K%

This week:

  • vs. Miami—5/25 (7:05), 5/26 (7:05). 5/27 (12:35)
  • at San Diego—5/28 (10:10), 5/29 (10:10), 5/30 (10:10), 5/31 (9:10)

 

St. Louis Cardinals

Last week: 3-4 [L-W-W-L-L-L-W]

The Cardinals took a tough road trip through New York and Kansas City (with no off-days) and experienced their longest losing streak of the season (a measly three games). It’s not surprising, then, that both St. Louis’ offense and pitching have looked less than their usual selves this past week, despite Matt Carpenter continuing to do his thing and Yadier Molina (.346/.414/.385 this week) becoming a singles machine.

Jaime Garcia made his 2015 debut on Thursday against the Mets and pitched seven fair innings (only 2 ER, but five hits and five walks surrendered in a 5-0 loss), but Michael Wacha’s two starts this week stole the spotlight with none more important than his performance on Sunday, a fantastic seven-inning outing against the Royals which helped the Cardinals stop their three-game skid. In his 14 innings of work, Wacha’s maintained a 0.93 WHIP while striking out nine.

Who’s Hot: Michael Wacha: 2 GS, 14.0 IP, 1.29 ERA, 2.25 K/BB

Who’s Cold: Jason Heyward: .150/.182/.350, 22.7% K, .133 BABIP

This week:

  • vs. Arizona—5/25 (4:15), 5/26 (8:15), 5/27 (8:15)
  • vs. Los Angeles Dodgers—5/29 (8:15). 5/30 (7:15), 5/31 (2:15)

Players of the Week:

Ryan Braun—.360/.452/.840, 3 2B, 3 HR

A.J. Burnett—2 GS, 14.0 IP, 0.64 ERA, 10.93 K/9

 

Thanks for letting me fill in, Nick!